When Information from Public Health Officials is Untrustworthy: The Use of Online News, Interpersonal Networks, and Social Media during the MERS Outbreak in South Korea

Kyungeun Jang, Young Min Baek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


Public health officials (PHOs) are responsible for providing trustworthy information during a public health crisis; however, there is little research on how the public behaves when their expectations for such information are violated. Drawing on media dependency theory and source credibility research as our primary theoretical framework, we tested how credibility of information from PHOs is associated with people’s reliance on a particular communication channel in the context of the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in South Korea. Using nationally representative data (N = 1036) collected during the MERS outbreak, we found that less credible information from PHOs led to more frequent use of online news, interpersonal networks, and social media for acquiring MERS-related information. However, credibility of information from PHOs was not associated with the use of television news or print newspapers. The theoretical and practical implications of our results on communication channels usage are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)991-998
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jul 29


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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